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Maximising your productivity and that of your team members, is therefore vital and the secret to doing that successfully, is positive time management – working smarter, not harder.
One of the problems we face in business nowadays is distractions, which come at us from all angles. From emails to social media and instant messaging, it can be difficult to keep those distractions at bay and it’s easy to get swamped under these endless requests for your attention.
The good news is there are many tried-and-tested strategies – as well as clever tools and software – that can help you take back control and give your productivity a valuable boost.
But before you get stuck in….
Being more productive is about taking a systematic approach and finding a system that works for you. The first step is to understand how you are currently using your time.
There are some great apps that can help you do this, including Rescue Time, actiTIME and Toggl.
To be more productive, you also need to understand what your priorities are. Setting goals that are in line with the goals of the business, will help you do that.
What is the business trying to achieve? Where do you need to get to, and when?
Define your path and you’ll ensure your efforts are being focused in all the right places.
Automation is a big deal right now. Use as many tools as you need to optimise your business operations. That doesn’t mean you have to use every app going – and in fact, overloading yourself with tech will not help. Find those areas that would benefit most from it and set up a system.
As a starting point, here are three popular tools for different business pinch points:
Do you know when you do your best work and are at your most productive? You need to make the most of that, it’s your golden time! Protect it and use it for the most valuable and important tasks – those tasks that will have the biggest impact on the success and growth of your business.
Give yourself set time to concentrate on the things that really matter to your business. Be super strict not to let anything get in the way. Block it out in your calendar and make that time which can only be interrupted in an absolute emergency. Avoid distractions by switching off anything that might try and steal your attention, such as your phone or email, before you get started. It’s too easy to be swallowed up in the day-to-day and not to prioritise what will really matter for the future of your business. Make sure your team know and understand this time is sacred too.
Multitasking neither works nor saves you time. There, we said it! The only way to optimise your productivity, is to focus on one thing at a time. You may feel that you’re a master at multitasking, but even switching quickly between tasks has an impact on focus. Every time you do so, you’re setting yourself back. Fully concentrate on one task at a time and you’ll be at your most productive and efficient.
Potential distractions are everywhere, but there is an easy answer. Switch off your notifications! It’s as simple as that. To be productive, you need to be in control of your own time. Prioritise your time and you’ll work much smarter. Work on tasks systematically, don’t just keep jumping around every time you’re notified you have a new email, message or text. You can still be contactable and remember there are other tools that can help too, such as autoresponders.
Email is hugely important for most businesses, but it can also be the biggest drain on your time. You need a system and rules for managing your inbox, if you are to be at your most productivity. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to treat your inbox as your to-do list. What you should be doing instead is using a task management tool, such as AirTable, Asana or Teamwork.
So instead of jumping at every new email, you sit down to batch process them – for example, twice a day. There is a helpful methodology for prioritising emails that says if you can sort an email in 2 minutes, then do it right away. If you can’t, then either add it to your to-do list (task management system) or pass it on to someone else if appropriate.
This way you’ll be actioning your emails in the order they should be done – and that will be most beneficial for the business – not just the order they arrive in. This will again help you focus on what really matters.
And batch processing isn’t just a great idea for emails, it should be used for all sorts of tasks. Instead of jumping straight on any task that lands on your desk, set time aside each day to work on them in batches. For example, a time that you’ll make your sales calls, go through your emails, sign off invoices, review marketing materials, etc. This can make a huge difference to your time and is proven to be a more efficient way to do things.
How much time is being wasted on IT systems or processes that aren’t fit for purpose? Or which haven’t evolved with the changing needs of the business? Ensuring you have the right IT system in place could prove transformational for your business, making you more efficient and giving you a competitive edge. Every second counts and if team members consistently have issues, such as logging in, finding and accessing information, or connecting remotely, that’s time that could have been better spent!
Another way to save time and money, is to outsource key business functions, such as accountancy or IT support. This allows you to focus on what you do best – making sales and growing the business. Seeking the support of a specialist, external team can be highly cost-efficient when compared to the time and effort of recruiting and employing someone inhouse. Using a reputable supplier also means you will have constant access to support when its needed, with no impact caused by holidays or illness. They will be up to date on the latest industry issues and best practice and proactive in preventing issues before they even happen.
Cybersecurity is one of the biggest threats facing the business world today and every business is a potential target – no matter what size or industry. Any amount of downtime can impact on productivity and also the reputation of the business. From viruses, to data breaches and ransomware, the threats are getting more and more sophisticated and can range from causing an inconvenience, to lasting damage. Insurer Hiscox estimates that cyber breaches cost the average small business £25,700 in basic ‘clear up’ costs every year, with a small business in the UK successfully hacked every 19 seconds. Prevention is always better than cure.